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And check—yes! All this can be rattled off in the time frame “allowed.” And there are some people out there who do just that, at every networking function, in every small-group conversation they join.
Having their lines memorized may give those people the necessary confidence, or make them especially proud of their “expertise.” And presenting yourself so “fluently” is sure to make an impression…right?
Well, an impression it will make for sure, only not the one that was intended. People will be just plain overwhelmed. Worse yet, in most situations they will probably find this approach off-putting, and perceive this type of “master networker” to really be saying: “OK, enough of me now. So what do you think of me?”
But…this is the elevator pitch! It’s what you are supposed to do in networking, isn’t it?
Yes, you do want to have an elevator pitch, but not one where you just hit “Play.” A canned pitch, memorized and regurgitated with the exact same words in the exact same order, is a buzzkill; that “elevator” will only go down, and fast.
No, your elevator pitch is a tool. Here are some pointers on what makes this tool effective.
Rehearse the gist, not the words.
You can word each key piece of information in various ways. Jot down your information in sentence fragments, and review it periodically so it will come to mind the moment you need it.
Practice the delivery of your information: in front of the mirror, with family, with friends, and with fellow networkers during meetings. That way, your exact words will vary naturally.
You may also notice how the order of pieces of information changes over “trial runs.” So you went from saying what you do straight to saying what you are looking for, instead of talking about the unique ways you do things? OK, maybe that was appropriate in that situation. The order in which you touch on your talking points is not chiseled in stone, no more than your exact words are.
Give the other person a chance to chime in.
At some meetings, people in attendance take turns standing up, one at a time, to introduce themselves. That’s the only situation I can think of where you want to deliver your entire elevator pitch, or most of it.
In all other situations, elevator pitches take more of a conversational form, speaking turn by speaking turn. Ask questions that invite the other person to expand: “So what do you do?”; “What brings you to this event?”; or “What are you most interested in?”
The other person’s answers may come with cues that allow you to direct the conversation back to all the wonderful things you have to give. Having the gist of your elevator pitch ready will make it easy for you to know a cue when it comes your way.
Less can be more.
So you just met a person, went back and forth with her five times, and didn’t have a chance to get the “communicate-with-tact-and-firmness” part of your elevator pitch in? Then maybe there wasn’t a good cue for that. Sometimes there is just no apparent connection across industries, roles, pursuits, aspirations, or even towns.
Trust your gut and your best judgment: if a conversation doesn’t get off the ground, don’t force that last talking point; it would probably fall flat. Every so often, the most gracious move is to say something like: “Well, it was nice to meet you. Now what say we find out what the others in the room are talking about?”
To sum up:
The elevator in your office building doesn’t go all the way up and down all the time, does it? Rather, people get on the elevator at various levels, and stay on for varying spans of levels. Therefore, you don’t want to be concerned with delivering your entire elevator pitch. What is much more productive is to use each of your talking points as ammo, one at a time. If it’s on target, reload. Oh, and give the other side a chance to take their shot as well.